California agrees to remove Aztec, Ashe chants from curriculum after legal challenge

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The California Department of Education has agreed to remove two controversial chants from its ethnic studies model curriculum after multiple parents argued it was unconstitutional. 

Announced last week, the settlement requires the state to notify charter schools, school districts and county offices of education of the chants’ removal and caution against their use. CDE and the state board of education are also required not to “encourage” the use of the affirmations in California’s public schools.

Stone sculpture of the feathered snake and god Quetzalcoatl, deity of creation and life for Aztec and Maya civilization, Chichen Itza, Mexico

A draft notification, which is subject to edits by the state, reads: “No ESMC content should be used as prayer, or any other form of religious act, and any such use of the ESMC content would contravene the SBE’s longstanding policy and guidance.”

It adds: “We trust that, in reviewing all other ESMC resources, local educational agencies will keep in mind the importance of ensuring that all instruction is both constitutionally and academically appropriate. To the extent you have been using the ESMC to inform your local decision-making process, please refer to the current ESMC.”

One of the parents, Jose Velazquez, described the settlement as a relief for families.

“Today is a day of relief to know it took a multiracial coalition of individuals with different backgrounds and beliefs to move a mountain to challenge the state education apparatus,” said Velazquez. 

An empty classroom in an elementary school 
(Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Both the ‘In Lak Ech’ and the ‘Ashe’ affirmations repetitively invoke religious gods or deities, which should be deleted from any public education curricula because our education system is not above the law. It is up to courageous parents, citizens and organizations to stand up for what’s right!”

The chants caught national attention when researcher Chris Rufo reported on them at the beginning of last year. They represented yet another example of highly controversial cultural content that has fueled a broader debate about race and identity in schools. 

Amy Carney speaks on behalf of parents during a protest against critical race theory being taught at Scottsdale Unified School District before a digital school board meeting at Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 24, 2021.

As Fox News previously noted, the curriculum suggests chants that invoke the deity Tezkatlipoka. 

Tezkatlipoka is an Aztec god that was honored with human sacrifices. According to the World History Encyclopedia, an impersonator of Tezkatlipoka would be sacrificed with his heart removed to honor the deity. In Aztec mythology, Tezkatlipoka is the brother of Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli and Xipe Totec – all of whom appear to be invoked in the chant. 

Included in the draft curriculum was a list of “lesson resources” with a chant based on “In Lak Ech,” which it described as “love, unity, mutual respect,” and “Panche Be,” which it described as “seeking the roots of truth.” 

The chant started with a declaration that “you are my other me” and “if I do harm to you, I do harm to myself.” Before chanting the name of Tezkatlipoka, the text read: “Seeking the roots of the truth, seeking the truth of the roots, elders and us youth, (youth), critical thinking through.”

It added: “Tezkatlipoka, Tezkatlipoka, x2 smoking mirror, self-reflection Tezkatlipoka.”

The Thomas More Society, which represented the parents, argued that the chants’ inclusion violated both the state and federal constitutions.

CDE did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. The settlement contains a provision agreeing that it doesn’t constitute admission of guilt or evidence of liability. 

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